Monday, June 26, 2017

Freedom Force!


My son has fond memories of Freedom Force, an old PC game I played when he was a child, and while he's recovering from having his wisdom teeth out, he said he might like to play superheroes. So I did up a bunch of the Freedom Force characters, and might eventually talk about why I made the decisions I did. For now, you can find them here. (It's a PDF.) It's not all the characters, and I might change my mind about them.

(In fact, I have fond memories of Freedom Force...I did a Freedom Force campaign back in the days of Mutants & Masterminds 1st edition. You might be able to find it written up (in part) on the Green Ronin site.)

Usual caveats, plus I'm sure that my interpretations of the characters reflect my play style for the game rather than how you play the game.

In general, I used the Freedom Force Wiki to remind me of what powers they had.  Still...
  • Things aren't as fine-grained in ICONS as in the game, so I distinguished Mental, Mystical, and Damage mostly. 
  • There's a 9 point scale that maps fairly nicely on to the ICONS levels (3 is average), though you might move anything labelled "Extremely" into superhuman. And I didn't give anyone Coordination 1, even if they were labeled a "Klutz".
  • As a real-time game, the speed of the characters was important. I checked to see whether the character might have Super-Speed and then ignored it.
  • Jumper was turned into Leaping if the character Strength was less than 7.
  • Lifter I just added 2 to the Strength.
  • I did Eve mostly because I had a 45-pt archer hanging around. I did her beauty as Aura (Stunning). 
  • Almost all melee attacks were left as functions of Strength; the characters can stunt things like Burst if the powers affect an area.
  • Any Acid power usually became Affliction, Confusion became Emotion Control or Mental Control (depending on other effects)
  • Some things became Telekinesis with the Limitation Up or Away (Alche-miss has two of these, Bullet does and Man O'War has Whirlpool).
  • If something did stunning and a little bit of damage, it usually became just the Stunning power. 
  • I ignored knockback.
  • For Alche-miss' various curse abilities, I used Probability Control (Bad Luck), figuring that the altered state matched pretty well with Trouble of a Lost Panel. I did add Alteration Ray (Phasing) as an extra, but I think on consideration it's just a special effect. The target loses a panel because they've been turned into as ghost.

I strove to have the characters come in at 45-50 points, with the Extras/Limits rules. That was a rough balancing act.

And I re-discovered Homing, an extra from Great Power.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Leech Redux


So I tried a conversion of Leech, from Champions, and it was okay...but last night I realized that I had used totally the wrong power. So let's try it with the actual rules, hey?

Leech (Frank Winston) — Transformed

Stealth (+1), Underwater Combat (+1)

  • Aquatic 4 (adds +1 to Coordination and Awareness underwater, gives Swimming 2)
  • Tough 5 (Damage Resistance 5)
  • Invisibility 3 Limit: Only when stationary [limit gives +2 to power level]
  • Leech-like (Super senses 1: IR vision Extra: Wall-crawling 1)
  • Leech's Various Ability Drains (Energy Drain 6 [test vs Willpower] Extra: Ability Drain Coordination Extra: Ability Drain Strength Extra: Life Drain Limit on Life Drain: Concentration  (Known stunt: Resistance to power drains)
  • Obeys all sorcerers
  • The light, it hurts us
  • Always attack the handsome & pretty first

And there I was trying to make Nullification cumulative and affect abilities, and heck, Energy Drain already does that.

And now Leech comes in at what, about 53 points? Reasonable for a rolled-up character. I'll have to try him out against someone. (Found an error. Fixed it, but now about 65 points. Not so reasonable.)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Another untried adventure!

System: ICONS

A while ago (two years? Three?) I had an idea, so I scribbled it down. It's kinda a Silver Age idea, with the heroes' souls transported into toys so they fight in a playroom... Ah, it kinda makes sense. It's never been played, it's never had its rough edges sanded down or its logical inconsistencies pointed out, and it's long. (You can actually find it in the Google+ ICONS group if you scroll backward far enough.

<sarcasm>So far, it sounds ideal.</sarcasm>

I found it again just recently, as I was spending money I don't have to make Word work (because it suddenly stopped. Gah.) I formatted it using a new tool, as an experiment, so it isn't even lovely.

So I threw the adventure on my Google drive as a PDF, and here it is:

I think it's accessible to everybody. Let me know if it isn't.

Parts of it belong to Fainting Goat Games (and I thank them for giving me permission to include them), parts are (of course) ICONS. The parts that are mine are released under Creative Commons Attribution license.

If you look at it and have comments, I'm glad to hear them, but I'm actually not inclined to revisit the adventure. I might implement the changes I think I have merit, or I just leave the whole thing alone.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fights in superhero RPGs

There was a discussion of hit points and alternatives in RPGs over on Facebook, and it got me thinking.

I was thinking about what comic book fights are like, but I am by no means an expert. (And—even if this is what comic book fights are like—fights in an RPG are probably more common than in comic book stories. We'll touch on some of the differences between stories and RPG sessions later.)

In comic book stories, fights feed into the whole "yes, but" and "no, and" mentality of stories. Yes, you win the fight, but the problem is bigger or different than you thought. No, you lost the fight and now you face a death trap or a crisis of confidence or the public loses faith in you. The heroes get into bigger and bigger trouble until the final confrontation, typically in the last quarter of the story. (See also the three try-fail cycles.)

The most common result depends on the opposition. There are fights with minions, fights with villain lieutenants, and fights with villain bosses.

Fights with minions: The heroes almost always win fights with minions. The fights might show that the heroes are badass or tough. From a story point of view, they're a fine example of "yes, but"—yes, you defeat the minions but you still have to track down the next clue/deal with the lieutenant or big boss. Generically, it's "Yes, you win, but the problem is bigger or otherwise than you thought."

If the character loses to the minions, the bigger trouble is usually that the heroes get captured and put into a death trap, or have to deal with the big boss. (Which I guess is a "no, and" situation.)

Basically, your RPG should have a way of dealing with minions, letting the heroes take on many minions, though too many minions or minions with the right equipment could beat them.

Fights with villain lieutenants: Lieutenants can win or lose at any point, because there's the threat of the boss villain behind them. Usually in comic book stories lieutenants win or gets away in the first half of the story.

In some ways, you have the most freedom with lieutenants. (And when the players defeated the boss too swiftly, I have sometimes invented a bigger plot or a bigger boss who controls the villain they just defeated.)

In an RPG, if the bad guy loses in the first half of the adventure, sometimes it's because the bad guy is working for someone else or because the bad guy wanted to lose for some nefarious reason.

Fights with the villain boss: In comic book stories, the villain boss usually wins for the first three quarters of the story. If the villain boss loses in the first half of the adventure, then it's because there's some bigger plot. If the villain boss wins, it seems to me that in stories, that causes a crisis of confidence (for heroes like Spider-Man) or investigation (for heroes of the Golden Age). This is a "no, and" situation again: No, you didn't beat him, and maybe you shouldn't be doing this, or you need to find the next aardvark-themed crime so you can out exactly how to stop this aard-fiend.

Now, how this applies to an RPG depends on what kind of game you like to run or play. So I'll pick two extremes.

If you figure that story is what we cherry-pick out of the events after the game is over, then a standard combat system against bad guys is fine, and story is invented after the fact. Maybe three of the bad guys in a group fall, and the rest of the evening is about dealing with the fourth bad guy and the three replacements he hires specifically to take on the heroes. Generally in an RPG there's a semblance of narrative in that the villains get tougher as the campaign goes along. (This is a side effect of the zero-to-hero thing a lot of fantasy RPGs have.)

If you are more into narrative structuring, then you want to make the "yes, but" and "no, and" systems a bit more explicit, either by making the opposition more intense (the Doom Pool, for instance) or giving the heroes Fate Points when they lose a fight, or something. Narratively, whether the characters win or lose in the first three-quarters of the story, the end result is to get them in more trouble.

*I'm using structure here as defined by Larry Brooks. It's not the only way to tell a story, though Brooks asserts it is, but most comic stories follow it.
  1. The first quarter is set-up, where Something Goes Wrong—like a mysterious crime is committed—and we establish stakes and foreshadow the rest. In a drama, this is the point where we would introduce the interior problems that will keep the heroes from resolving things too soon. In a comic book story, we don't often do that.
  2. The second quarter is response, where the characters act, but they don't really have an idea of the problem. They don't know that the bad guys have a subsonic transducer that makes the victim suggestible.
  3. Then something happens at the half-way point, and they figure out what the problem probably is...but they have the wrong solution in this attack quarter. Maybe their solution is that it's magic, because done of the bad guys has a mystic gem.
  4. Then, in the last quarter, there's a resolution—the heroes recognize the real problem (and solve that pesky internal problem in a drama).
If you're more into tactics (like I am), you want to make sure that the system has the tactical choices to make it more than "oh, it's time for a 'yes, but' fight." (Really, the players should never feel that way.) Some systems try to define "losing" very broadly, so the combat system can be used for social combat as well as physical combat. I appreciate the thought, but the few examples I've seen seem to water down the combat so much that it doesn't seem to me like combat at all—just dice rolling. (Yes, a good GM can overcome these difficulties. When you learn the system from a book, it's sometimes hard to be a good GM.) Here, instant narrative system:
First quarter of the session
Whatever the PCs do, it sets them up for bigger trouble.
  • If the heroes win a fight, they get clues to the real problem.
  • If the heroes lose a fight, the consequences are bad and social.
Second quarter of the session
The characters respond to the situation in the first quarter.
  • If they win a fight, it reveals to them that the problem is bigger or different than they thought.
  • If they lose a fight, they investigate or quit, and suffer social reprimands in either case.
Third quarter of the session
They have some idea of what the problem is, and they attack it...but usually they're not quite right.
  • If they win a fight, it's usually by the skin of their teeth, and the real nature of the problem is demonstrated to them
  • If they lose a fight, they discover that their approach isn't quite right.
Fourth quarter of the session
Armed with this new understanding, they probably resolve the situation.
  • If they win a fight, that's great, and it closes out some problem.
  • If they lose a fight, then you just bought yourself a series...but usually they pull something positive out of it.

I don't really have a point to make here; I'm just thinking out loud. Comments and disagreements welcome.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Today's idea

Simply because of publishing schedules, villains outnumber heroes by 12 or better. Most of them tend to be knockoffs, but what getting powers warped your moral compass? (I don't remember saying this before, but I might have.)

Brandon Sanderson and others have touched on this, and today I read the interview with the last Nuremberg prosecutor, who holds that war makes otherwise good people into murderers.

You could go full White Wolf and introduce a Morality stat--like SAN in COC it would deplete unless you took pains to refresh it, but that seems a bit too dark for me. (In honour of Traveller we could have a mustering out roll as the last one in character creation, and if you fail it, your character is a super ill aim. )

However, I'm a tad more hopeful than that. So you have a Heroism stat, but it doesn't fluctuate. It's just a roll you have to beat. If you don't beat it, then sometime during the session you get to redeem yourself. Or you can choose not to, and the target number ticks upward.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Things I forget in ICONS

Hey, folks. Sorry I've been away; chemotherapy is really busting my butt these last couple of weeks. What I thought was that it was like antibiotics...I'd start, and I'd feel better and better, and eventually we'd be done. Unfortunately, chemotherapy is more like they're trying to kill you and they hope the cancer dies first. So until you're done, you keep getting worse. Still, past the midway point.

Anyway, there are a couple of rules in ICONS that I rarely act on, mostly because I skimmed them on my first read and didn't catch them until recently.
  • Automatic hitbacks So when anyone tries to hit your character with Prowess or Coordination and the result is a massive failure, you automatically succeed in hitting back, if that's plausible. (ICONS Assembled, pages 43, 138, 139) In the case of a Dodge (using Coordination), it's a bit more limited...throw back thrown projectiles...but it's there. Your high Prowess or Coordination hero can attack multiple heroes in this way without stunting Burst.
  • Villains spending Determination When a villain would spend a Determination point (from a power or usually from stunting; Steve Kenson is quite clear on the fact that only heroes have Determination, but some power descriptions include Determination), the affected player gets the Determination. That I remembered. But if the villain uses a maneuver or a tactic to get the Advantage, then the player doesn't get the Determination, because the villain has already paid the "cost" of the Advantage. Good to know.
  • Buying vehicles When I looked at Vehicles and the Vehicles power in the various Justice Wheels supplements from Fainting Goat, I realized that the Assembled version of a vehicle would be a reskinned Servant power. While Servant grants you a pool of points to buy Prowess, Strength, Coordination, and any powers, a Vehicles version would give you a pool of points to buy Handling, Speed, and Structure, a movement power (Flight, Aquatic, Burrowing, or Super-Speed), and any other powers. Stealing from the Justice Wheels power, the default number of passengers is 2, and you can spend a point for each extra five passengers. (No, you don't get points for saying 1 passenger only.)
  • Old Elemental Control vs. New Element Control As originally written, Element Control had five possible descriptors; you got two and the rest could be bought as Extras(we would call them now): Attacking, Defending, Moving, Creating, and Shaping. Creating is now assumed (that is, it's a Limit if you can't create your element or energy). Attacking, Defending, and Moving are usually obvious Effects (probably Blast, Force Field or Resistance, and Telekinesis, but certain behaviours might call for something different). But that darn Shaping has always been an issue for me. However... There are two options:
    • Just call out Shaping as an Extra. You're the GM, of course you can do it.
    • The book Great Power contains the extra "Force Constructs" for Force Control, and I see no reason why you couldn't apply the Extra "<Material> Constructs" to your power to signify creating earth walls or water walls or force walls or darkness walls or whatever. (The Extra is also how you might do the old Champions power "Force Wall".)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Here's your idea for today

Not superheroes today.

So there's a lawsuit against Warner Brothers that's a little different. (Here's a brief YouTube video in summary.)

According to that link, Warner has to shore up its claim that the movies are based on "historical facts" by proving that witches and ghosts are real. 

Wouldn't that be a great set-up for your PCs? And because time is short, they just have to go to the worst places. The studio stands to lose $900 million on this, so the budget for your players is &300 million (after salaries and lawyers). 

And all they need is documented evidence...

(Did someone say, "Belasco Hell House?") 

Friday, April 7, 2017

(Ex) Sidekicks, An Adventure

Norbert was kind enough to let me run a session of ICONS Assembled for some players in his world. So this is it, cleaned up and genericized, as an adventure. Will it really work for players other than the ones I had? I dunno. But you can at least mine it for things. Should be adaptable to most other superhero RPGs. (But read it first. Chapter 5 has a dicey part.)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Introduction for Players

The Man of Photons is dead.

Once, Doc Cosmic, the man of photons, the ray of hope, he was one of the greatest. Every PC met him, at least once, before he retired, years ago. Some of them might know what his identity was; some might not. Some might have known him well enough that they expect to be at the reading of the will; some might be surprised.

You were all sidekicks, back when he was active. Now? Up to you, because that’s a decade ago. Maybe you’re heroes. Maybe you’re former villains. Maybe you’ve retired, and you run a sporting goods store in Omaha. Doesn’t matter. For this long weekend, you’re wearing a mask again (assuming you ever did), and on Saturday you’ll be at the funeral. Sunday, you’ll be at the will reading. Monday, you’ll wrap up.

Expenses are taken care of by the estate. They’re paying for the flights, for the rooms and for room service. (Hey, they had enough money to have him in that fancy-pants old age home for supers…they can pay for you, too.)


Random roll. But when you’re making it all fit together, remember the following:
  • You used to be a sidekick. Now, well, maybe you’re a hero, maybe you’re a sporting goods manager in Omaha, maybe you’re a big name on a TV show, maybe you betrayed everyone for reasons and you’re out of prison on parole. Maybe you’re an immortal 12-year-old, forever on the cusp of puberty and you’re still a sidekick.
  • You’re legal enough to go to the funeral and the reading of the will, at least one of which will see heavy police presence (Police Commissioner Bruce will be there).
  • You should tell me who you used to be a sidekick for, and what happened. (Short is okay. “I was the sidekick for the Zoom Master, but quit when he lost his battle with the bottle. Knocked around for a bit trying to be a sidekick for others, but now I’m a session musician in New York. No wife, but a steady girlfriend, Lisa.”)
  • You know the other player characters. Your choice whether you like them or not, or know them well. But you know them, and you have your own reasons to work with them.
Feel free to create FATE style linkages between your characters: Maybe you always had a crush on the other character. Maybe your new wife is nervous because she’s heard that superheroines are “easy.” Maybe you’re now a ghost, because you got killed in the same fight that killed your mentor but now you fight for the “differently-existing” and you got help from some other character. Even, “Hey, remember how we fought every month because our mentors said it would be good training?”


None of this is canon unless you need it. But if you do…well, here it is.
  • For convenience’s sake, assume there was/is a loose group of heroes called the Guild of Guardians (or just the Guardians), and that there is an even looser group of villains called Eminences Noir. (There’s a spinoff group of the tech villains called Menlo Barons, and another spinoff– I guess we don’t need to go there.) If you can’t think of the name of the group that your sidekick’s hero belonged to, it was the Guardians.
  • If you really really want there to be a team of sidekicks (like the Teen Titans or the Young Avengers), uh, there were two notable ones for our purposes (unless no one wants to mention them). The Free Masks were not approved by the older heroes, and the Equity Ensigns were approved. You can probably guess that the Free Masks were cool but made more mistakes, and the Equity Ensigns were considered dorky but learned the Guardian way of doing things and had access to some Guardian stuff.

There will be no viewing; mindful of the danger from a last-minute revenge scheme, Doc Cosmic will be interred straight from the funeral. (The body hasn’t been prepared in any way; Doc Cosmic was invulnerable to most weapons, making embalming a chancy proposition.)

Answers about Doc Cosmic in particular are in the Investigation write up, but PCs can have some of that information before the funeral, if they want.


The adventure takes place in Endurance, Kansas, the small city where Doc Cosmic is to be buried.

The Five Corners hotel

The players have rooms rented for them in the city’s nicest hotel, the Five Corners, built at a five-way intersection downtown. Any players who asked for a car have a rental: usually a compact, but there are so many people coming to town, that the rental company had to make mid-size and large cars available, too. (Nothing like a Prius or a Tesla or a Lamborghini is available for rent.) Car
rentals happen at the airport, about a twenty minute drive outside of town.

The hotel has a pool, a business office, a fitness room, a bar (“Outlaws”) and a restaurant (“The Pentagon”). It has WiFi for customers. Security is laughable.

Endurance, Kansas

A small city in Kansas. The city has been down on its luck since about 1981. Endurance was much more rural when Doc Cosmic (aka Steve Hubble) was born in the late 1950s. In fact, he was born and raised as a farm boy, but the city swallowed his parents’ farm in the 1970s.
  • Bars: Bars vastly outnumber cinemas and churches. Some bar names include Spurs (country-and-western bar, with line dancing on Thursdays), Lightning, Outlaws (bar of Five Corners hotel), and Anonymous Rave.
  • Churches: Endurance Methodist Church is a small church on the outskirts of town with a crypt and an attached graveyard; it’s where Doc Cosmic is buried. Crypt is specially fitted to be hard to enter (but easy to escape, if someone were to come back from the dead). Other churches, synagogues, etc. exist. Endurance does not have a notable Muslim population.
  • Hotels: Some chain hotels. Best hotel in town is Five Corners, built at a five-way intersection in town, on Main Street. The hotel has a pool, a fitness room, a bar (“Outlaws”) and a restaurant (“The Pentagon”).
  • Parks: There are a number of small parks, and the Musgrave Memorial Park is probably the best place to talk without probably being overheard. There are picnic stands and the exterior of the park was set up so that shotgun mikes aren’t feasible. Even the park is vulnerable to super-senses.
  • Restaurants: Locally, in order from low to the city’s single Michelin-starred restaurant: Checkerboard (down home feel), Kelly’s Roost, Hero Station (theme restaurant with lots of hero and villain memorabilia), The Pentagon (Five Corners restaurant), Nouvelle (Michelin star, near hotel). The usual chain restaurants exist.

The Golden Age Retirement Home

Outside the city limits of Endurance is a large walled institute with spacious grounds. Buildings include main retirement home, groundskeeping hut, security building, and maintenance building.
  • Main retirement home: Two stories, and shaped like a cross, aligned with compass; each arm indicates level of aid required, from “Aid” to “Complete”, with center containing medical, food, and entertainment facilities. Some staff live here.
  • Security hut: Near gate, cameras, controls invisible force field over grounds. Easier to get into buildings once you’re on the grounds. Tunnel access to underground hangar.
  • Maintenance hut: Controls for HVAC, access to geothermal tap for electricity, etc.
  • Groundskeeping hut: Riding mowers and the like, plus tunnel access to underground hangar.
  • Underground hangar: No vehicles, several entrances/exits, including to medical facilities in main room, groundskeeping shed, security building.
  • Secret operating theater: Through a secret door in an apartment; door is sized for someone in a wheelchair or on a gurney. Long sloped corridor down leading to locker room; locker room exit leads to large circular room with floor drains, possibly former operating theater, and with mystic sigils painted on floor. The room has braziers and tall candle holders.
  • Qualities: Spacious grounds, high security, hidden areas, retirement home.

Introduction for GMs

A brief adventure involving an old age home for supers. Obviously, if you're playing in this, don't go farther.

What's going on?

A villain, Theodora Darna, has found a way to reliably transfer the souls of the old into the bodies of the young, and to fund some other scheme, is selling it to villains in the supers rest home, the Golden Age.

Darna is going to put the souls of the old villains into the bodies of young ex-sidekicks. There are a couple of reasons. The ex-sidekicks are young and have powers, which makes them more attractive to the villains buying the process. This is probably the first time that Darna has done this commercially, so having the best "vessels" available is a good plan. (If you are running an ongoing campaign, a test subject might be around, someone who has already got the soul of someone else.) The death of Doc Cosmic makes it possible to get ex-sidekicks who don't live near the area, because she can use the reading of the will as a way to get them there. (Using ex-sidekicks also appeals to her sense of unfair play.)

At one point, someone tries to warn the heroes. In my original adventure, that was a seed for a later session; it was indirect intervention because the person is not allowed in the dimension. It gave the players a chance to practice combat with the minion option, which was useful for showing them how fast can go. However, you can come up with a different reason or skip it, if you don't need to demonstrate combat.

Chapter 1: Arrival

This is a chance for the PCs to scope each other out, if they don't know each other. If you want, you might play out a small bit involving the arrival of the PCs in Endurance. Possible bits:
  • Car rental
  • Recognizing an old friend
  • Conflict with another ex-sidekick or mentor
  • Being recognized and quizzed about life choices since “the old days”

What Do We Know About Each Other?

In the interests of time, the PCs are able to recognize each other as people in “the life” if they don’t already know each other. The city has a number of visitors who are obviously in the life (usually athletic, low body fat, muscular, tall) or who are recognizable in secret ID if a PC knows them. Presumably someone who recognizes them won’t out them: they’re secret identities, after all.

The PCs run into Putty Lad, who knew at least one of them way back when, and whose nickname in the sidekick community was “Slutty Putty” because he was a pansexual shape-changing horn dog who didn’t care what equipment his partner (or partners) had.

From Putty Lad, they can learn that he has no idea about why the ex-sidekicks are invited, and that he’s heard of the Golden Age (perhaps his former mentor visits someone there).

At the very least, Putty Lad’s attitude toward possible partners hasn’t changed, and he’ll proposition any or all of them.

Chapter 2: Funeral

The funeral is held at the Endurance Methodist Church in the morning, and the body is to be interred in the Hubble family crypt, in the attached graveyard. For the most part, heroes attend in costume, because it’s their costumed identities have the relationship with Doc Cosmic.

The church is packed, and the PCs have to stand near the door. The service is nice (it turns out an attending hero has his Doctor of Divinity and hosts the service). The PCs open the doors for the pall bearers, and are therefore the people who notice the zombies.

Yes, zombies.

(In fact, the zombies are an attempt at a warning by some supernatural being; Theodora Darna is not well liked in some mystical circles. Aim the warning at the logical PC, or skip the zombies entirely. They are useful to demonstrate a simplified version of combat with the minion rules.)

Zombies have pulled themselves out of the ground (mostly…one starts the page still buried to the waist). The PCs are in the best place to deal with them. There are three zombies per PC; use the minion rules. Besides the usual zombie moans, the zombies are trying to say something. An unconscious zombie is an un-animated zombie. A really good hits disintegrates them…these are old bodies, from the 1930s and 1940s. The fact that they even make sounds is a testament to the embalming process.

Using the minion rules, the PCs should make quick work of them. If they need weapons, the groundskeepers left a spade and a rake in sight.

The actual internment in the crypt goes flawlessly, though there might be dead bodies on the graveyard lawn….

After the funeral, people go to the Methodist Community Center for a reception. The church ladies have made sandwiches. It’s a fine opportunity for the PCs to investigate.

Some items are common knowledge (marked “free”); some are public and need only to be mentioned (“I’m investigating…” and marked (investigate). Others are discovered through the use of qualities or pyramid tests.

What was that?

If there was an incident with zombies, the players probably want to know what just happened.
  • With the minion rules, it’s unlikely that they have a zombie to question, but they might. If they do, the complete message is “sidekick name, beware.”
  • In the aftermath, the bodies can be identified by the graves they crawled from. The zombies are just the people who were buried around the crypt. It looks like someone or something with the power to animate corpses used what was available. The PCs get the sense that who they were isn’t important.
  • If anyone can read residual magic, the magic is similar to the magic on the former TwirlyGirl’s magic boots. There’s a difference between “divine” magic (heaven, hell, angels, and demons) and “fey” magic (leprechauns, trolls, dragons). There are other types of magic as well, but the people involved in the adventure are probably only aware of the difference between divine and fey magics. Azuziel can tell them.

Who was at the funeral?

The PCs can identify some of the people at the funeral, including:
  • Rusty Rooster (formerly the Jimmy Olsen to Doc Cosmic’s Superman)
  • Silk Cat (the daughter of the original Silk Cat, but who was currently on the side of the law…though she’d been on both sides)–her mother had a relationship with Doc Cosmic, and her parentage is a mystery, even to her; PCs will. naturally assume that Doc Cosmic is secretly her father.
  • Nurse Dyne from the Golden Age retirement home.
  • An old man in a wheelchair with horrible scarring (Doctor Armageddon, a former world-threat super villain whose body had been so wasted that even though his mind was there, his body is almost useless).
  • The orderly Brock Fenton from Golden Age who was tending him, and who had that muscular super-person look.
  • Putty Lad, of course, whose response to them depends on their earlier response.
  • Azuziel (a winged man), who claims to be a fallen angel, and who gave them information on divine versus fey magic, including that the residual magic around the zombies was “fey magic” but that is not his specialty, so he can’t identify it.
Through talking with other people in attendance, they can learn that no one understands why the ex-sidekicks are even in the will. Apparently that change was made six months ago or so; Rusty made it, saying that Doc Cosmic had asked for it during a lucid period. (Rusty has power of attorney for Doc Cosmic’s estate).

Brock Fenton is interested in any PC who talks to him, and suggests a dinner date, whether it’s romantic or platonic.

Researching Doc Cosmic

This is available by talking to Rusty or (most of it) by Googling. It can be done as a pyramid test, and on successful completion, you give them this information.
  • Doc Cosmic had invulnerability, flight, and “power over cosmic energy,” which had variable effects, but he normally used for increased strength or “cosmic blasts.” He had used it for various sensory powers, too. (Free)
  • Doc Cosmic went public in 1977, and was a founding member of the Guardians (1979). (Free)
  • This was his first death, though he did disappear three times for a year or more at a time. (Free)
  • In the 2000s, he started to show signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and shortly after that, he retired, By 2010, his condition had worsened so much that he was put into the Golden Age, an old age facility for supers. Several of his old foes were already in there. (Need to actively investigate to find this out)
  • His father died in 1975; his mother in 1992. Both are in the family crypt. (Investigate)
  • The Hubble family came into the possession of a fortune in gold, after the city bout their farm, while gold was at nearly a thousand dollars an ounce. Their son Steve found the gold while on vacation; appropriate taxes were paid on it.
  • The secret base (in the Colorado mountains) has two entrances. One is under the old farmhouse; an underground rail car goes through an evacuated tunnel to the secret base. The trip feels slightly odd because of Coriolis forces, and takes 22 minutes. There is a password.
  • The crypt is heavily secured but is easy to get out of. (Hubble was aware of the tendency for heroes to return from the dead.)
  • Retrofitting on the crypt was done by Wreckreation, a company that started by dealing with danger rooms.

Researching Old Foes and the Golden Age

Because Doc Cosmic went into the Golden Age as a relatively young man, there aren’t many foes of his in the retirement home. However, there are some, and there are other villains.
  • These foes are in the Golden Age:
    • Electrophasm (ability to change into electrical plasma and electricity)
    • Dr. Armageddon (body wrecked from his armor)
    • Mr. Mephistopheles
    • Crimson Scarab
    • Silk Cat (the original, who was primarily a thief)
  • Other (former) villains include Rocket Raider (Gimmick-based high tech thief), Tech Tok (thief who worked through mechanical “avatars”), and Radium Lord (powered villain).
  • Nurse Dyne is a new hire, having started at the Golden Age fourteen months ago. She has a good record.
    • If anyone actually investigates her record…it exists primarily on paper. If you talk to her references, they say a canned response about how good she is, but they have no actual memories of her.
    • In the time since Nurse Dyne joined, two others have joined as orderlies, and both are on Nurse Dyne’s shift.

Chapter 3: Investigations And a Dinner Date

This is largely a continuation of the previous scene, with the PCs investigating. If any PC accepted Brock Fenton’s invitation for dinner, that happens this evening.

Various heroes who attended the funeral will want to share information without being bugged. Though there might be clever answers, the best place for any non-genius who doesn’t carry anti-bugging equipment is the park.

If the PCs split up, you might need to intercut between them.

Superheroes sharing information can be met at the park or, with the correct powers, overheard. If the PCs missed vital information before, you can insert it here. The important things are:
  • No one knows why the sidekicks are in the will.
  • The change that put the sidekicks in the will is less than a year old.
  • There’s a rumor that Theodora Darna is trying to sell something at the Golden Age.
  • There are conflicting stories about Darna’s origin, but the one that she tells most often has her as a lover of a scholar four hundred years ago who took his books. She has been playing off factions of Hell and Heaven since then, in the quest for greater arcane knowledge. Darna may be a liar, but some famous heroes treat her as a credible threat to the world. She’s certainly a person with a strong magical knowledge and some spells.
At the dinner with Brock, he’ll be open about his power: he can nullify any inherent power. This makes him useful as an orderly, because some of the old folks can’t control themselves any more. He is useful when the old guy who can lift a mountain has an episode. He lives on the Golden Ages grounds…he is essentially on call.

Anyone who can get into the Golden Age (the security system is difficulty 5, though it can be circumvented with the appropriate specialties or powers) can search. The underground hangar is relatively easy to find. The hidden occult chamber is difficult, but access to it is in Brock’s room, and he intends to check it when he gets home tonight.

Chapter 4: The Reading of the Will

The will is read in a converted Edwardian brownstone, the office of Severn Arbogast. Mr. Arbogast has done civil law for the superhero community for several decades; he’s close to retirement. He has started passing off newer work to his assistants, Rachel Karsh and Harvey Creek. However, he handles all the affairs of Steven Hubble.

The will is being read in several sessions, as Mr. Hubble wanted. Principal heirs who knew him as "Steve Hubble" went first; principal heirs from his Doc Cosmic career were dealt with on Friday. This reading is of the secondary heirs.

The prefatory text mentions that Doc Cosmic wanted to leave a legacy. Each sidekick present gets a memento from Doc Cosmic’s base. (Remaining materials go with the base, which is now the responsibility of the Guardians. If you want, the Guardians might give them a second memento, because Hubble’s choices seem odd.)

Each PC gets a memento that matches their origin. This is actually because the memento will act as a focus for Adarna's soul transfer. Posible devices include:
OriginDevice (Memento of)
ArtificialEmotion chip (Dintargan the Destroyer); Heart of Navur (Bunbekin the Golem)
BirthrightNecklace (Mesothrall)
GimmickThe Mephistopholes Wand (Mr. Mephistopholes)
TrainedThe Scarab Ring (Crimson Scarab)
TransformedQuantum Knucklebuster (Quantum Thug)
UnearthlyKatharkian Scepter (Captain Raptor)
Switch them up if something feels like it would be a better match for the PCs.

Mr. Arbogast warns the PCs not to use the mementos; they were in the possession of villainous people. Rusty has been fetching them back and forth, but some mementos can’t be close together or things happen. (If asked, Rusty says, “I had a transformation. I don’t like to talk about it.”)

Rusty will deliver the mementos to the PCs by five in the afternoon.

Researching the Will

A bit of investigation (Googling or investigation) reveals:
  • Rusty Rooster had signing authority for Hubble; he changed Hubble’s will (at Hubble’s request) eleven months ago. Rusty visits Hubble every week.
  • A PC with telepathy might check: Rusty insists that changing the will was Hubble’s idea, but a massive success on Telepathy reveals mental “footprints”. The whole sidekicks idea might have been planted in Rusty’s brain by someone with mind control.
  • Google or web searches will tell them what the mementos might do; only Rusty can tell them how to work the mementos (unless the memento doesn’t do anything or the GM decides they don’t know).

Chapter 5: The Mementos and the Kidnapping

This scene has two purposes: the PCs need to get the mementos, and then they need to be overpowered to be placed in the ritual. The biggest problem with that—even though it’s very comic book—is that players hate to be kidnapped. You bribe them with Determination points (or competency dice, or karma...whatever the bribe of your system is).

The actual mechanism of the kidnapping depends entirely on the PCs. The generic mechanism is this:
  • Rusty delivers the mementos at once.
  • Brock appears, really because he has been following Rusty but ostensibly his reason is to see one or more of the PCs.
  • Brock neutralizes what powers of the PCs that he can. Each players gets a determination point because Brock has to stunt Burst to do this.
  • Other thugs hired by Brock knock the PCs out. If necessary, the thugs have minor powers through items enchanted by Theodora.
It is totally meta-gaming, but it can work to explain to the players that their characters are to be kidnapped. It is worth another determination point to allow your character to be kidnapped.

Scene 6: The Ritual

The PCs are tied to gurneys in the big ritual chamber. One PC is at the center of the pentagram, others are along the edge. The mementos are tucked in with them, but out of reach. Brock is still neutralizing their powers or they don't have their devices.

The pentagram has five people in robes at the corners; Nurse Dyne was in the triangle, and another woman who they had never seen before was in the square. (A PC might recognize her as Theodora Darna.) And the ritual is underway…

Even though the PCs probably don’t have powers, there are a number of ways to escape.
  • Any player can attempt a Coordination roll (plus possibly Sleight of Hand) to escape the ties. Any applicable quality can be invoked.
  • Any player can attempt to disrupt Brock’s concentration and destroy the Burst stunt.
  • At the least, any PC yelling will bring a henchman over to gag them, and that might provide an opportunity.
  • The PC might be able to move the memento into range for use, and provide the extra abilities necessary to escape.

Once the PCs have escaped, they need to fight the cultists (who are paid henchmen, and so are less fanatical than your average cultist). As soon as things go bad, Theodora Darna attempts to escape as soon as things go bad, but fighting Brock and Nurse Anodyne and four henchman should provide a rousing climax (and they might get Theodora Darna).



As minions, the zombies don’t need Stamina, but if you ever use them as non-minions, there it is. And the Burrowing is used to get out of the graves, and nothing more. Perhaps it doesn’t even need to be there.
  • Abilities Prowess 3 Coordination 2 Strength 4 Intellect - Awareness 2 Willpower 3 Stamina 8
  • Specialties None
  • Powers Burrowing 3 [Limit: Temporary]
  • Qualities Re-animated corpse.

Putty Lad

  • Abilities Prowess 5 Coordination 3 Strength 3 Intellect 3 Awareness 3 Willpower 5 Stamina 8
  • Specialties Athletics
  • Powers Transformation [humanoids, extra: Objects] 6; Alternate form [Ooze] 3; Stretching 5; Damage Resistance 3
  • Qualities Nickname among other sidekicks: “Slutty Putty”; Eager to fit in

Brock Fenton

  • Abilities Prowess 5 Coordination 7 Strength 4 Intellect 3 Awareness 6 Willpower 5 Stamina 9
  • Specialties Medicine (+1)
  • Powers Nullify [Magic & inherent powers, extra: Ranged] 6
  • Qualities Doing This For Grampa; Eye For The Ladies; Secret Ancestry

Nurse Anodyne (Anne Dyne)

  • Abilities Prowess 5 Coordination 4 Strength 4 Intellect 4 Awareness 6 Willpower 5 Stamina 9
  • Specialties Medicine Expert (+2), Psychology Expert (+2)
  • Powers Stunning [extra: Side Effect: Mind Control (only people she’s Stunned)] 6
  • Qualities Doctor In Her Own Right; Connected to Theodora Darna; Whomever She Needs To Be

Theodora Darna

  • Abilities Prowess 4 Coordination 5 Strength 3 Intellect 7 Awareness 5 Willpower 7 Stamina 10
  • Specialties Business, Occult Expert (+2)
  • Powers Magic 8; Mastered Spell: Herakles’ Gift [Ability Boost Strength 8]; Mastered Spell: Homeward Bound [Teleport extra: Rangeless Limit: Preparation]; Brooch of Odin (device) [Aura 3]; Arguments over her soul [Immortality] 1
  • Qualities Quest for Knowledge; Wanted by Heaven and Hell; Betrayal Is Always an Option

There you have it. Do with it what you will. Let me know what parts were useful!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bullet Redux

Too long since I played the Freedom Force game; I have no idea what Bullet's Qualities might be. But my first draft on his powers are...

Prowess: 4 Coordination: 4 Strength: 4
Intellect: 4 Awareness: 5 Willpower: 6
Determination: 1 Stamina: 10

Pilot Specialist (+1) EDIT: Pilot Expert (+2) instead

Super-Speed 8
Extra: Surface Movement
Extra: Defending
Extra: Air Control Limit: Performance EDIT: Removed Extra: Side Effect on Air Control
Extra: Fast Attack

I know there are a couple of more abilities, but as I recall, they show up later and could be stunted. Or I have the wrong idea about the character....

EDIT: This is revised after the Codger's comments below.

"Why, I Haven't Seen You Since..."

I was reading an article on missing supporting characters and I wondered if there's any way to put the pleasure of returning old characters into a campaign.

If it's a returning campaign, sure. But how do you put a "returning" character into something that hasn't ever existed before?

Well, you need player buy-in, I think. Without player buy-in, you have to drop hints about the character and have them talked about for sessions, before they ever show up. Maybe you can get that little frisson.

A way you might do it is having players generate a background and plucking from that. (The character probably has to have good associations rather than bad.) Obviously, it's easier if your players do lists with character names, but it's not always necessary.  If your player had a character background that mentioned a childhood as a military brat, then you can invent a character, one of whose attributes is "Former friend of player character" and their lifestyles explain why you haven't seen the character before.

I wouldn't do this sort of thing for every player, and certainly not all at once...then it becomes, "Hey, what plot requires all of these people from our past to show up, and what villain might be doing it?" You don't want that.